Our Blog

Orthodontics and Oral Piercings

January 25th, 2023

Traditional braces and oral piercings—does the inevitable meeting of metals pose any risks? Let’s look at some of the potential problems with oral piercings, and you and Dr. Richard E. Dunn can decide if you should take a break from jewelry while you’re in treatment.

  • Tooth Damage

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, but when up against constant contact with metal? It’s not a fair fight.

Tongue piercings, especially, cause problems for your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat—even while you’re sleeping!—your tongue is making contact with your teeth. This continual tapping of metal on enamel can chip and crack teeth and damage fillings. A serious fracture could mean a root canal.

You’re getting braces to create a more attractive, healthy smile, so keeping your teeth intact is a priority.

  • Gum Problems

Your gums are affected by orthodontic treatment. As the teeth move, the gums, ligaments, and bone around them adapt and even reshape over time. You might notice when you first get your braces, or when you go in for an adjustment, that you have a few days of swollen, sensitive gums afterward. You might also find that you are at greater risk of gingivitis, because it can be harder to keep plaque away from your gumline until you perfect your brushing and flossing skills.

Oral piercings bring their own gingival dangers. Jewelry in the tongue or lip can rub against gum tissue, especially around your lower front teeth. As the gum tissue continues to be irritated and inflamed, it pulls away from the teeth. This process is called gum recession.

Receding gums expose the tops of your roots to cavity-causing bacteria. They make you more sensitive to hot or cold foods. Pockets between gums and teeth can harbor infections that threaten the tooth itself.

Caring for your gums during braces is important for your dental health. Since people with oral piercings have a much higher rate of gum recession that those without, why add one more risk factor to your oral health?

  • Metal vs Metal

Lip and tongue piercings can make contact with traditional brackets and wires, especially if you have a habit of playing with them. And let’s not forget lingual braces! Lingual braces are almost invisible because their brackets and wires are custom fitted to the back of your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat, you’ll be taking the chance that a tongue piercing will damage these custom-made appliances.

Dr. Richard E. Dunn can tell you if your piercings are in any danger of interfering with your braces, but even if you’re planning on aligners, there are additional reasons to consider retiring your oral jewelry. Dental associations and medical associations discourage oral piercings because they can damage teeth and gums. And there’s more. Oral piercings can lead to swelling, bleeding, allergic reactions, infection, and nerve damage.

The reason you’re considering braces is because you want a healthy, attractive smile. Don’t let a tiny piece of jewelry make your life and your treatment more difficult! Do some research and talk to our Visalia, CA team about your oral piercings, and come up with a solution that’s best for your health and best for your smile.

Overbite Overview

January 18th, 2023

An overbite is one of the most common malocclusions. If Dr. Richard E. Dunn and our team have diagnosed you with an overbite, you probably have lots of questions. Let’s try to answer some of them!

Just what is an “overbite”?

A malocclusion is another way of saying that you have a problem with your bite, which is the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a healthy bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth. A normal overlap is generally considered one or two millimeters.

An overbite is a Class II malocclusion, and means that the upper front teeth cover more of the lower teeth than they should. But that’s a very general definition, and we will diagnose and treat your own, very specific, bite and teeth alignment.

Because overbites aren’t all alike. They might be barely noticeable. Upper teeth might overlap lowers by an extra millimeter or two. In more severe overbites, the upper teeth might cover the lower teeth completely. The amount of overlap and the cause of the overbite will determine your treatment.

What causes an overbite?

Overbites can be dental, caused by tooth alignment, or skeletal, caused by bone development, or a combination of both. They are usually hereditary, so, most often, an overbite is something you’re born with.

The size and position of your jaws, the shape and position of your teeth, all affect your bite alignment. But early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb-sucking or pacifier use can contribute to overbite development. Missing teeth and bruxism, or tooth grinding, can also affect the alignment of your bite.

How do we treat an overbite?

There are many types of treatment available. Dr. Richard E. Dunn will recommend a treatment plan based on the type and severity of your overbite. Because some treatments are effective while bones are still growing, your age plays a part as well.

  • Braces and Aligners

If dental issues are the main reason for your overbite, braces or clear aligners can be very effective. Rubber bands are commonly used to help bring teeth and jaw into alignment.

  • Functional Appliances

If the overbite is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still forming.

For young patients, there are several appliances that can help correct an overbite. Some, like the Herbst appliance, work inside the mouth, while others, like headgear, are worn externally. Your orthodontist will recommend the most effective appliance for your needs.

  • Surgical treatment

In some cases, where the problem is skeletal rather than dental, surgical treatment might be necessary to reshape the jawbone itself. This is especially true for adults, whose bones have finished forming.

If we recommend surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are experts in surgical procedures designed to create a healthy and symmetrical jaw alignment. Dr. Richard E. Dunn will work with your surgeon to design a treatment plan, which will usually include braces or other appliances following surgery.

Why treat your overbite?

Sometimes, a very slight overbite won’t require treatment. A serious, moderate, or even mild overbite, though, can lead to many dental and medical problems, including:

  • Crooked, crowded teeth
  • Worn teeth and enamel
  • Problems speaking or chewing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches, facial, and temporomandibular (jaw) joint pain

When you work with our Visalia, CA team to correct your overbite, you’ll not only prevent these unpleasant consequences, but you’ll achieve major benefits as well—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. If you’d like more than an overbite overview, Dr. Richard E. Dunn can provide the specific information and treatment plan you need to make that healthy bite and that confident smile a reality!  

Orthodontic Treatment—The Sequel

January 11th, 2023

Some experiences are great, and we look forward to enjoying them again and again. Others have wonderful outcomes, but you feel no need for a sequel. If you’re wondering whether you need to revisit orthodontic treatment, you’re probably in this second group.

After all, you put in your time as a teenager. All those days in bands and braces, all the adjustments, all that cleaning with little tiny tools in little tiny places. That was a lot of work, and you reaped the rewards of your conscientious orthodontic habits with beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy, comfortable bite.

But now you’ve started to notice that your teeth aren’t quite as beautifully aligned, or your bite’s not quite as comfortable. So, what’s happened? Let’s look at some possibilities, and whether a return to the orthodontist’s office is in order.

  • You’ve Lost a Tooth

If you’ve lost a tooth because of injury or decay, that gap is an open invitation for surrounding teeth to move in to fill the void. Whenever you lose a tooth, consider an implant. Implants function, look, and maintain healthy spacing just like natural teeth.

One thing implants can’t do? Move like our own teeth will during orthodontic treatment. Your natural teeth can move because they are held in place within the bone by flexible periodontal ligaments. Implants, on the other hand, are anchored directly to the bone for stability.

If you’re considering new or further orthodontic work and want to replace a lost tooth with an implant, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Richard E. Dunn to discover the best timing and scheduling for your procedures.

  • You’ve Gained a Tooth

Problems with your alignment can also arise if you add a tooth or teeth. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, wisdom teeth could be in your near future. And a new tooth can throw off the spacing and alignment of your existing teeth.

Talk to Dr. Richard E. Dunn about your options if your wisdom teeth are about to make an appearance, and if it looks like your tooth and bite alignment might be affected.

  • You’re Getting Older

Our teeth naturally tend to shift as we age. Teeth move forward, causing crowded or crooked front teeth—especially on the lower jaw. There’s even a medical term for this phenomenon: mesial drift. While we don’t know exactly why this drifting occurs, we can treat it.

Adults make up a large—and growing—segment of orthodontic patients. If your teeth have lost their ideal alignment over time, a visit to our Visalia, CA office is a great way to bring your youthful smile back. And you’ll probably find your treatment much shorter and more comfortable than it was decades earlier!

  • You Haven’t Been Wearing Your Retainer

Remember that word “conscientious” in the second paragraph? You need to wear your retainer conscientiously, for as often and for as long as recommended by Dr. Richard E. Dunn.

If you’ve been ignoring a damaged retainer, or you keep forgetting to look for your lost retainer, or you have a perfect, undamaged retainer sitting unworn on your dresser, your teeth can start to shift out of their hard-won alignment within a short time.

Does this mean it’s back to months of bands and adjustments and appointments? Maybe not! See us as soon as you notice any changes in your teeth or bite. When caught early, shifting teeth can be treated much more easily.

What can we do to help you regain your best smile? A lot!

  • Treatment Planning

When you need to accommodate implants, wisdom teeth, or other dental work which could affect your tooth alignment, Dr. Richard E. Dunn can work with your dentist to make sure your alignment isn’t disturbed in the process. They can also map out a treatment schedule which coordinates your other procedures with any orthodontic treatment.

  • Retainer Evaluation/Adjustment

Your retainer is probably a passive retainer, meaning it keeps your teeth in place instead of moving them. If you notice your alignment shifting, or if your retainer is uncomfortable when you try to put it on after a lapse in nightly wear, ask us about a replacement.

  • Active Retainers

An active retainer helps move teeth into alignment rather than simply keeping them in place. A new active retainer might be just what you need to correct a slight shift.

  • Aligners or Braces

If you have some serious shifting going on, we might recommend a second round of treatment with clear aligners or braces. But there’s good news here, as well! Treatment to correct an orthodontic relapse usually takes less time than it did originally, and treatment options are more comfortable and less noticeable than ever before.

Talk to Dr. Richard E. Dunn about an orthodontic sequel if you have any concerns about changes in your bite or alignment. You might need only a simple retainer adjustment or a short time in clear aligners or traditional braces to make your smile its best and healthiest once again. And this time, remember to wear your retainer to make sure there’s no need for Orthodontics—Part III!

Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 4th, 2023

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers. Tartar, hardened plaque which can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease—which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

  • Consequences for Orthodontic Treatment

Finally, if this is the year that you’re investing the time and effort needed to create an attractive, healthy smile with orthodontic treatment, don’t sabotage yourself by smoking!

Cosmetically, smoking doesn’t just discolor your tooth enamel—tar and nicotine discolor your aligners and braces as well. If one of the reasons you chose clear aligners or ceramic brackets is for their invisible appearance, the last thing you want is yellow aligners and brackets.

More important, smoking, it’s been suggested, can interfere with your orthodontic progress. When blood vessels are constricted, your gums, periodontal ligaments, and bones can’t function at their healthy best, moving your teeth where they need to be steadily and efficiently. This means that your treatment could take longer. And if your smoking has caused gum disease, you might have to put any orthodontic treatment on hold completely until it’s under control.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Richard E. Dunn for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

Richard E. Dunn, DDS, MS (559) 625-3030
101 W. Tulare Ave
Visalia, CA 93277